Comments on NDREU

I really enjoyed my summer research time at Notre Dame. Since I had attended another REU the summer before, I had already started learning things like how to approach a new math problem, where to look for inspiration, and how to ask for help. My time working closely with Prof. Frank Connolly, though, gave me the chance to put these things into practice and to learn also how do math in a community environment. I knew in the abstract that doing a problem involved not just spending time on my own in the library, but I hadn't quite learned how much of doing math is scratching on a chalkboard in front of someone else and struggling to explain my ideas clearly. This involvement with another mathematician goes beyond the ordinary ocassional practice of explaning your problem to give someone else a general idea of your train of thought. It is much harder to work hand in hand with someone else on a problem and keep them caught up every day with what you've been doing, much less stay fully aware of their own ideas. Mathematicians are communal animals, and the NDREU gave me a chance to do some much-needed mathematical socializing.
---Margaret Doig, Princeton Univ.

I felt that the NDREU 2005 program offered me a big glimpse into the world of research mathematics. Over the course of the seven week program, my partner and I were able to start a project on a topic of which we knew very little and end up extending some previous results into new areas. The program offered daily faculty interaction at a level that I felt was appropriate--not too hands on or hands off. I felt that I had the freedom to pursue what interested me, and yet also had enough direction to not feel like I was truly getting stuck somewhere. I plan on continuing the research we started during the summer throughout the school year. However, the biggest thing I came away from this program with was a knowledge that not only could I pursue a career academia, but that this was actually something that I wanted to do.
--Brad Froehle, University of Minnesota

"The Notre Dame REU allowed me to do meaningful research with talented and dedicated faculty alongside other motivated students. Notre Dame works hard to provide a high quality experience."
--Ryan K. Johnson

The NDREU program is an interesting and challenging mathematical experience. Students work in groups of two with a full professor on actual unmined areas of research while taking classes in the morning. A note to potential applicants: be cautioned. If you are looking for a "9 to 5" work experience, this REU is not for you; you will take your work home with you. Likewise, if you are unsure about pursuing graduate school, think you will prefer teaching to research, or are only interested in an REU because you want to know what mathematicians do all day, this REU is not for you; the focus is on the production of original research. However, if you love math and are willing to work hard, you can reap great benefits from the program. As long as you put in the effort, you will hone your public speaking and teaching skills, as well as learn a great deal about an interesting open area of mathematical research. In short: a very strong program, but not for the faint of heart. Be committed.
--Zach Madden, University of Notre Dame

The NDREU2005 was critical for my mathematical development. We were able to focus intensively on original research while developing the key skills of giving talks and writing papers. The addition of the lectures on algebra and topology and talks about grad schools made it almost like math bootcamp - preparing us to go out into the world of mathematics and be successful.
The REU kicked my thinking about grad schools into high gear. I came away with a much better idea of what kinds of research I might be interested in and what kinds of math I want to focus on in the future. Doing summer research at NDREU has prepared me to jump right into research and given me confidence in my ability to pick up new ideas quickly and to apply them, a skill I think will prove invaluable for my senior thesis and beyond. Working with a partner was helpful in that we were often able to tackle problems and try out ideas on our own, in addition to the extensive help provided by professor Connolly.
I would recommend this REU to students who are highly motivated to do research and are interested in publishing their work. It is a great way to really thrust yourself into the mathematical world, to try out many new kinds of math, and to meet other young mathematicians.
--Alice Neels, Reed College

The rapid pace at which my partner and I were able to learn algebraic topology and begin digging into our research problem was amazing. When I first arrived in Notre Dame, I was a bit intimidated by the difficulty of our problem, but in just a few weeks I began to feel like an expert on our topic. This fast-paced development no doubt attests to the teaching skill of our advisor, and thus the overall quality of the REU program. My favorite aspect of the REU was the great deal of flexibility you have in your schedule. On some days, we would meet for only three hours, which left the rest of the day for you and your partner to do research on your own. This freedom really put the responsibility to get research done on myself, and made me see that I was really contributing to the research efforts. Of course, our work would have been fruitless without the daily meeting with our advisor, but I learned a great deal more by having this mix of freedom and guidance. I also really enjoyed the social interaction at Notre Dame with the professors and other students. We frequently played basketball with Professor Gekhtman, and Professor Connolly invited us over his house for dinner. On the weekends, the students went up to the beach at Lake Michigan. It was great that even though we were all there to do work, we were still able to have fun in our spare time!
--Steve Privatera, University of Rochester

The ND REU 2003 was definitely a unique experience, offering much more than just the opportunity to do research. The mini-courses were little work, and yet I felt that I learned much. For me, the most rewarding aspect was the weekly talks and the Indiana REU conference which we attended. The talks were great practice and helpful for organizing our thoughts and research. Summers in South Bend were definitely beautiful, and in all it was a great environment for doing research. The advisors were infintely helpful, not only in guiding our research, but also in providing a relaxing, yet productive atmosphere for our summer research.
--David Brown, University of California, Berkeley

The Notre Dame REU experience for 2003 was more rewarding than I ever would have imagined. The mini-courses in the mornings helped in gaining a greater understanding of mathematical topics which will surely help in both my continuing undergraduate education and future graduate education. More importantly, however, the research was a great experience. Being posed a problem and finding a solution to which no one else has determined a solution is incredibly rewarding. In addition, learning the structure of a more formal research paper, and having the potential to have a published work as a result, are an incredible advantage for my future in mathematics. Finally, the chance to work with some of the nation's best undergraduate mathematicians (and great advisors to aid our progress) was fantastic, not only in developing mathematical skills, but also in developing some great friendships. Overall, this was a very rewarding experience, and I recommend the NDREU to anyone who sees math as a part of their future.
--Keith Harwood, University of Notre Dame

For anyone whose never done math research extensively before, the REU provides a great way to start. The flexibility in schedule, along with the structured guidance of the professors made work on the project flow smoothly and at our own pace. PLus you get to meet several other talented young mathematicians from around the country and share work with them, both related to and unrelated to the REU work. In addition, there was plenty of time and opportunities to have fun with the other REU participants, both after working and on the weeekends when we had excursions around the area. All in all, a great place for both people with little or no prior research experience as well as those who have done it before but are looking to do work on problems in wide-ranging fields of mathematics.
--Andrew Rupinski, University of Notre Dame (2005)

The Notre Dame REU in 2003 was an outstanding experience. First, the actual research mathematics we were doing -- in particular the project I worked on, which involved algebraic graph theory and hamiltonicity -- was very interesting. It was pitched at a non trivial level, so you needed to have some understanding of at least the principles behind all the constructions involved, but at the same time it was very accessible and able to be thoroughly investigated right away so you could actually emerge with some significant results. The research environment was very good as well. We worked in pairs -- rather than independently as is the case in many REUs -- which was nice since, if there was a day when you didn't have an insight into your particular problem, chances are your partner did, and you could keep plowing ahead. Also, co-directors Frank Connolly and Dan Isaksen always knew how to give just the right amount of advice (if you were stuck on something involving your research problem) such that you could take it, run with it, and proceed on your own.
Also, the mini-courses -- one in algebra, the other in topology -- worked out surprisingly well in my estimation, since they often helped and never really took time away from our efforts on the actual research we were doing. All this, plus the beautiful South Bend weather, made for a great summer.
--Brian Ginsberg, Yale ('04)

I would recommend the NDREU without reservation. My partner Rachael Finck and I, under the direction of Dr. Connolly, learned a year’s worth of mathematics in a few weeks. K-Theory, Surgery Theory, Homology: I had never even heard of these terms before, yet by the end of the REU2003 we had worked with a variety of problems in each discipline. It felt rewarding (and sometimes exhausting) to finally roll up my sleeves and devote every neuron toward one amazingly tricky problem. I finally caught a glimpse of what mathematicians are referring to when they talk of the beauty of the math, its elegant complexity. But even more so, I learned about myself, and I met a great group of fun, talented, intelligent people. We went canoeing in the park, we had dinners at the professors’ houses, we made late-night runs to Meier for R.C Cola. We debated (or argued, depending on the day) about philosophy and current events in the dining halls, and I was fortunate to have been able to hear so many heart-felt opinions. Also, working with one partner for those seven weeks taught me my own limitations, strengths and weaknesses. The NDREU is not only about cutting edge mathematics; it is about meeting other students, about broadening one’s horizons, and it is about heeding the Oracle of Delphi’s command, “Know thyself.”
--G. Johnston

NDREU2003 was a very positive experience. I was most impressed by the amount of time Professor Connolly was willing to spend discussing our problem with us. The mini courses were also quite useful either as a review or introduction to new material; they were structured so that we covered significant ground without it being overwhelming and take too much time away from working on our problems. There were also abundant opportunities to socialize, e.g., weekly lunches in the courtyard. Overall the environment was very supportive and encouraging and conducive to forming friendships as well as doing math. On top of all that, the ND campus truly is a beautiful place to be in the summer. I highly recommend this REU.
--Helen Lei, UCLA ('05)

The NDREU2003 here at Notre Dame was an interesting, rewarding experience. The mini- courses were great not only for learning (possibly, depending on the individual new mathematics, but they also helped me to mature mathematically; actually, the whole process did, especially my meetings with Professor Connolly. These meetings were the first time that I had ever had to work with other people on a major math project, and doing so gave me a good idea what research will be like after grad school.
--N. Radcliffe

"I got everything I could have asked for in an REU2002 program. The research topic (Hamiltonian graphs) was interesting, and offered the possibilties for publication in a journal and presentations at math conferences. The mini courses focused on topics that supplemented rather than review my courses during the school year. Most importantly, the challenges of working on an unsolved problem, writing up a clear paper, and discussing the problems before and after finding the solution gave me a better understanding of math, which continues to help me with my studies now. My interests and ability in math have grown considerably from being a part of Notre Dame's REU program."
--M. Miller, CUNY

"I participated in a two week seminar on algebraic topology at the end of the 2000 REU. Two of us students met with Frank Connolly for three hours each morning to learn singular homology from the best. We were given reading assignments and exercises for the afternoons. Our meetings were part lecture and part audience participation; for instance Frank guided us as we proved the Five Lemma. It was the first time I had focused so intensely on mathematics; the Notre Dame REU proved a supportive environment for that first immersion experience. Algebraic topology and homological algebra (of which algebraic topology is the fundamental example) are widely applicable in modern research mathematics, and I am grateful to have learned so much along these lines as an undergraduate."
---D. Swinarski, Columbia University

The REU 2002 was a great experience for me. Working on our research problem boosted my confidence in my abilities in math. It really demystified the concept of "math research." Also, the way the program was set up, each person was able to do a presentation in front of the whole group about five times over the course of the summer. It was amazing how much easier it became to present as the summer went on. We learned how to talk about and write about our problems. Besides the research problems, the mini-courses were another cool aspect of the program. It was nice to be able to learn in a casual atmosphere, not having to worry about tests or grades.
---Vickie Barone

The Notre Dame REU2002 was really a turning point in my academic career. Before that summer I had been a good student, but had not been altogether serious about continuing my education at the research level. The experience I had that summer brought me very quickly to a level of mathematical maturity, both in knowledge and appreciation, that I most certainly would not have reached otherwise. Until participation in the REU, I knew very little about topology or algebraic topology, and coming out of the program I felt I was far ahead of most of my peers, at Notre Dame and competing institutions, in both of these areas and in mathematics in the general sense. The individual attention I received through the program was nothing short of remarkable. I remember many days where I was able to have two to three hour individual discussions with an experienced professor (Frank Connolly.) I don't know where else I could have received such attention and encouragement. In short, I can definitely say that without the program I would have fared much worse in my acceptances to various graduate programs, and also in my performance since entering graduate school.
---Matt Hedden, Columbia University.

Participating in the REU2002 program at Notre Dame is to date the best decision I have ever made. The Notre Dame campus is breathtaking, and we were just a short drive away from Lake Michigan and the wonderful city of Chicago. As a woman, I found the research and mini-courses to be incredibly rewarding. I returned to fall semester at CSU, Fullerton with a newfound confidence and advanced ability in my mathematic reasoning. The relationships I developed over the summer with the other students and faculty advisors in the program could not have been more special. By the end of the summer, my research project had progressed into a paper ready for submission to a professional journal. This is by far the best summer job anyone could ask for! It was surely an experience I continue to take with me in everything that I do.
---Stephanie Proctor, University of California, Irvine

The summer I spent at the University of Notre Dame's Research Experience 2002 for Undergraduates is one of the most challenging and rewarding times of my academic career. Through the mini-courses and our research problem, I grew in my appreciation of both the vast world of mathematics and the pleasures of conducting mathematical research. In addition to the mathematical experience I gained, I also made new friends, students from all over the country, with whom I had the opportunity to enjoy many exciting recreational events in the surrounding area. Plus, the opportunity to study in the midst of one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country is invaluable. I give the highest recommendation to anyone who is interested in this REU.
---Chris Porter

The Notre Dame REU2002 (Research Experience for Undergraduates), is an excellent program, which blends dedicated students with professors dedicated to training these students in the art of mathematics. The program encourages students to to think creatively in venturing into new and exciting problems in mathematics. In addition, the program provides students with classes that will help with graduate school and beyond all in an environment (University of Notre Dame) that is beautiful during the summer. All in all the Notre Dame REU was one of the best summers of my life!
---Matt Mauntel, Indiana University, Bloomington

NDREU2002 was a fulfilling experience and a great way to spend the summer. The campus is beautiful, and the people doing the REU are totally amazing. I had more fun that summer than any other I can remember. Not only were the weekly lunches, the weekend trips, and the comraderie amazing, but the amount of mathematical sophistication that I gained is astounding. Between the mini-courses and the research project, I can honestly say I learned more math in that one summer than in any single semester or even year. Perhaps the most amazing thing for me about this program is I never felt overloaded with math, even though I would spend hours each day working I enjoyed every second of it. I highly recommend this program!
---Paul Gibson, Northwest University

I thoroughly enjoyed my summer spent at the Notre Dame REU. Spending weeks studying an advanced topic in mathematics with a handful of other bright and motivated students was unlike any classroom experience I had ever had. Without the distraction of other courses, we all had time to work on problems together and discuss the material in depth, which greatly improved my understanding. I felt like, for the first time, I was working with the material, and not just learning from text books. Bonding with my fellow students was an integral part of the experience, and this interaction is probably where I learned the most. I would definitely recommend the experience for anyone with an interest in advanced mathematics, especially if you think you may want to pursue graduate work in mathematics.
---Sami Assaf, University of California, Berkeley


Updated on: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:23 AM
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